Running on fumes

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Short-handed Rockets drop one to Pistons 115-107

If there's ever a night for a potential title contender to lose a game to a sub-.500 team, this would be it. The Houston Rockets went into the Toyota Center tonight off of three games in four nights completely exhausted and without Russell Westbrook (rest) and Eric Gordon (knee scope). You never want to excuse a loss like this for a contender, but it's kind of hard to hold this one against the Rockets, when Mike D'Antoni himself admitted there was an element of exhaustion for the team tonight.

Even James Harden, famous for never admitting when he's hurt, admitted there was an element of "schedule loss" to Houston's performance tonight.

"It is what it is," Harden said after the game. "We all know how difficult it is so we have to continue to fight through."

The Rockets shot 13 for 45 from three-point range with seemingly all of the misses coming short. They looked sluggish and a step slow on defense as a team and weren't always running back in transition.

When players like Christian Wood (11 points and 12 rebounds in only 21 minutes) and Derrick Rose (20 points and 12 assists) are out-efforting you, sometimes all that's left is tipping your cap to the opponent.

"Like I said, they played well," said D'Antoni. "We just - you get behind, then you try to get back in there and a couple of things go wrong. We just didn't have the mental energy to take control of the game and get it over with."

Star of the game: James Harden gave an admirable effort tonight, but it was apparent from the beginning of the game that his tank was empty. Harden logged 39 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and 1 steal on 14 of 33 shooting from the field, 1 of 4 shooting from three-point range, and 7 of 8 shooting from the free throw line. After posting consecutive 50-point games and carrying the team to their last two victories, it's hard to blame Harden for being as tired as he was.

Honorable mention: Chris Clemons took advantage of the opportunity that was given to him in stride. Clemons posted 17 points 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block on 6 of 12 shooting from the field and 5 of 11 shooting from three-point range. It's hard to imagine Clemons cracking the rotation when Westbrook and Gordon come back, but he's done a great job with the playing time that he's been given.

Key moment: James Harden scored 17 of his 39 points in the third quarter and 11 of his points came in the final 5 minutes. Harden helped the Rockets cut it to a 10-point game. Even though his effort ended up being fruitless, it was yet another example of the kind of responsibility Harden has to carry in this offense every night.

Up next: The Rockets play the San Antonio Spurs in Houston at 7:00 p.m. on Monday.

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Houston is back in the win column

McCullers Jr. spins a gem as Astros get a much-needed win over Giants

Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

After getting swept by the A's in Oakland to end a road trip with a five-game losing streak, the Astros returned to Houston to try and get back on track. To do so, they'd need a win against the Giants on Monday night. Here is a quick recap of the series opener:

Final Score: Astros 6, Giants 4.

Record: 7-9, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 6.10 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Logan Webb (1-1, 2.81 ERA).

Houston builds up an early lead

The early goings of Monday's game went very similar to the last time Lance McCullers Jr. took the mound. He would have a terrific first three innings while his offense gave him an early lead. The first run came in the bottom of the second, with Yuli Gurriel reaching base on a one-out double, moving to third on a wild pitch, then scoring on an RBI-single by Carlos Correa.

Correa would take part in a four-run inning in the third, as Houston would score two on a two-RBI ground-rule double by Michael Brantley, another on an error, then Correa's second RBI of the night, a groundout to bring in a run and make it 5-0. Unlike the last start in Arizona, where the roof opened and McCullers Jr. fell apart in the fourth, he was able to make quick work of his opponent for a 1-2-3 frame. As he kept recording scoreless innings, Martin Maldonado added another run to the lead with a one-out solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, making it 6-0.

McCullers Jr. takes a no-hitter into the seventh

While the Astros were building their lead, McCullers Jr. was spinning a gem on the mound. He allowed just one baserunner through the first six innings, which came on a hit-by-pitch. He entered the seventh with a no-hitter in progress, but the Giants would get their first hit of the night to end the no-hit bid.

Regardless, the start was precisely what McCullers Jr. needed to restore his confidence after the disastrous inning he had in his last appearance. He would go on to complete the seventh inning before Houston would go to the bullpen with the large lead in the eighth. His final line: 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K 0 HR, 1 HPB.

Houston gets back in the win column despite more struggles by Josh James

Josh James entered out of the bullpen for the top of the eighth but allowed the first run of the night for San Francisco via a solo home run with one out to make it 6-1. He would complete the inning and then return for the top of the ninth. He would have another rocky inning, issuing a leadoff walk before a single and double would make it a four-run game at 6-2, still with no outs in the inning and runners on second and third, prompting another call to the bullpen.

Dusty Baker would bring in his current closer, Ryan Pressly, to try and finish the game, now in a save situation. Pressly would retire the first two batters he faced before allowing a two-RBI single to make it 6-4, but would eventually get the final out to get Houston the much-needed win. With the victory, the Astros moved back into second place in the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Tuesday at 8:10 PM Central. The Giants, working with a fluid rotation, have not yet fully decided on their starter, while the Astros will get another start from Brandon Bielak (2-0, 0.87 ERA) who will look to repeat the success of his five-inning, no-run start in Arizona last week.

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